Behavioural Science is a rapidly expanding field and everyday new research is being developed in academia, tested and implemented by practitioners in financial organisations, development agencies, government ‘nudge’ units and more. This interview is part of a series interviewing prominent people in the field. And in today's interview the answers are provided by Eden Brownell.
Eden is Director of Behavioral Science at mPulse Mobile. This team designs modern engagement programs that make healthy behaviors easier to learn, do and sustain. Eden is a self-proclaimed nerd that loves learning and doing research. She has a background in psychology and did her master’s in public health with a focus in behavioral science at Boston University. She lives in Boston with her two French bulldogs. Click here to learn more;
Who or what got you into behavioral science?
My path to behavioral science was a bit roundabout. I actually started my undergraduate degree in Theatre, with the goal of becoming a dramaturg. For those who may not be familiar, a dramaturg's role is to assist the director and production team in bringing a play to life, by studying the play's structure, language, themes, and more. I found myself particularly drawn to studying the motivations of characters and their relationships, which sparked my fascination with human behavior. This led me to switch my major to psychology and sociology.
After completing my undergraduate degree, I pursued a master's in public health with a focus on social and behavioral sciences. From there, I continued to learn about the field through various articles, courses, and books. Overall, while my journey to behavioral science wasn't a direct one, I'm grateful for the diverse experiences that have shaped my perspective and approach to the field.
What is the accomplishment you are proudest of as a behavioral scientist? And what do you still want to achieve?
I'm thrilled to share that I've recently been promoted to the Director of Behavioral Science at mPulse mobile. This promotion is not only a personal achievement, but also a recognition of the importance of behavioral science in our organization, and a significant step forward for healthcare and population health. I'm grateful for the opportunity to lead our team's efforts to leverage behavioral science to create meaningful change and improve health outcomes for our users.
I'm excited about the future of behavioral science, and one of my goals is to help grow the behavioral science team at my company. I believe that expanding our team will not only enable us to have a greater impact on the health outcomes of our users but will also provide more opportunities for personal and professional growth for individuals interested in this field.
Additionally, I'm passionate about creating opportunities for others to explore their interests in behavioral science. I've been considering starting a group that connects people within the field, where we can share insights, learn from each other, and explore opportunities to work together. Ultimately, my aim is to support the growth of the field and help create a community of like-minded individuals who are committed to improving health outcomes through behavioral science.
If you weren’t a behavioral scientist, what would you be doing?
One of my interests is interior design. I find joy in the way objects fit together within a space and creating an environment that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Another alternative that I've considered is becoming a stay-at-home dog mom. However, I find the work that I'm doing in the field of behavioral science to be incredibly fulfilling and impactful, and I'm committed to continuing to make a difference in this area.
How do you apply behavioral science in your personal life?
I'll be the first to admit that when it comes to behavior change, I'm the epitome of psychological reactance. Despite my best intentions, I often find myself resisting my own efforts to establish new habits or nudges.
That being said, I've discovered that the 'fresh start effect' can be a useful strategy for me. I try to identify different points or shifts in my life or routine, like the start of a new month or week, a birthday, or a major life event, and use these moments as an opportunity to establish new habits. While I don't always stick with these changes, I'm always looking for ways to improve my approach and increase my chances of success.
Overall, I recognize that behavior change is a challenging process, and I'm constantly learning from my successes and failures in order to improve my ability to make positive changes in my life.
With all your experience, what skills would you say are needed to be a behavioral scientist? Are there any recommendations you would make?
I believe that the most important quality to look for is a passion for learning. This means a deep curiosity about what motivates individuals, and an eagerness to understand how to apply the correct behavioral science interventions to achieve desired outcomes.
In my experience, the best behavioral scientists are open to learning from their results, whether they succeed or fail. They are not afraid to take risks, test new ideas, and iterate on their designs. They are comfortable with the idea of being wrong and see it as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Ultimately, I believe that a willingness to learn and grow is essential for success in this field. As new research and insights emerge, it's important to stay up-to-date and continuously improve our ability to understand and influence behavior.
How do you think behavioral science will develop (in the next 10 years)?
I find it fascinating to consider how emerging technologies, such as AI and ChatGPT, will impact various industries in the coming years. As a behavioral scientist, I believe it's important to anticipate and react to these changes, and to consider how we can help industries overcome challenges or make the most of these new developments.
One area where I see a significant opportunity for behavioral science is in the realm of AI and machine learning. As these technologies become more prevalent, it will be critical to ensure that they are designed and deployed in ways that align with human behavior and values. Behavioral science can help to identify potential pitfalls and ethical concerns, and to develop strategies to mitigate these risks.
Additionally, I believe that there is an opportunity for behavioral science to help industries make the most of these technologies. By understanding how humans interact with AI and ChatGPT, we can develop insights into how to optimize their use and effectiveness, and to design experiences that are more engaging and intuitive.
Overall, I see AI and ChatGPT as a significant opportunity for behavioral science, and I'm excited to be a part of exploring this new frontier.
What advice would you give to young behavioral scientists or those looking to progress into the field?
For anyone interested in behavioral science, I would encourage them to take advantage of the many free resources available in this field. There are a wealth of informative and thought-provoking articles on Medium, and Habit Weekly and Irrational Labs are both great resources for staying up-to-date on the latest research and trends.
In addition, I highly recommend utilizing LinkedIn as a way to connect with and learn from others in the behavioral science community. This platform provides a valuable opportunity to engage with like-minded professionals, share insights and ideas, and stay connected to the broader conversation.
I've found that the behavioral science community is full of passionate and eager individuals who are always willing to lend a helping hand or share their knowledge. By tapping into this community and taking advantage of these resources, anyone interested in behavioral science can quickly become a part of this vibrant and exciting field.
Which other behavioral scientists would you love to read an interview by? Hmmm I think you have covered so many good ones. I might suggest some of the following who are doing great work in the space. Michelle Handy, Marion Zabinski Handler, Rachel Foster, Stephanie Weldy.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions Eden!
As I said before, this interview is part of a larger series which can also be found here on the blog. Make sure you don't miss any of those, nor any of the upcoming interviews!
Keep your eye on Money on the Mind!